Cued by CRT Law Mama, and the discussion of male feminism here, here, and I’m sure elsewhere…

When I come to a discussion that is centered on the experiences and struggles of people who have experienced an oppression that I have been priviledged by…what is it that i do? When I see people coming to a discussion where a community i claim is discussing our marginalization…what do i say to them?

one of the real tricky bits of this question for me is that the answer i give is split between a few equally important, and often oppositional priorities i have.

in no particular order at all, what i have in the mix:

a deep mistrust of the system and the individuals who are serving it, a profound hope for the awareness (and dare i say it redemption) for all who do so, and uncertainty about any methodology, particularly my own.

I’m troubled by essentialism, and my work has a pretty teleological focus to it…which is to say i’ve got a utopia already picked out, even if i’m completely sure i’ll never see it. but one thing this implies is that i’ve got a special concern for how allies function . i’ve come to realize why i love reading Paul so much…frustrating as he might be, he’s got some really interesting approaches on how to adopt another people. the grafting of the gentiles into to the tree of Israel, as his metaphor goes in Romans, is a project of extreme proportions… Even in his life time, before the schism that creates “Judaism” and “Christianity” as distinct entities…there are still troubles. But he honestly thinks that the experience (religious, ethnic, historic) of the worship of the God of Israel can be translated to outsiders, all under the watchful eye of the Empire.

talk about eschatological ally theology.

So what do we do? Should men be feminists? Do white allies have a role in doing critical race theory? Can hetero persons find meaning in participating in queer cultures?

My answer is yes. A hesitant and qualified yes, but a yes. It’s imperfect, but I think it beats out the alternatives. As James Perkinson points out to us, the problem with objective distance is that it has a long history of participation in the consumption of the “subject” of study. And we’ve got a culture that has a hard time finding middle ground between the poles of construction and consumption. A person plants, or a person eats. We study, or we are studied. And analyzers make poor allies. This concept of consumption is what i see operative when BrownFemiPower talks about the link and run problem of “mainstream” bloggers taking the discussion out of space that she and other women of color are speaking in. She rightly points out the assumptions about who gets to talk about what where that are going on in such re-directions.

Now what? Job’s comforters get the reputation of being the worst allies in history, the kind of friends that can make the worst torture even more of a burden to bear. They perform this consumption by centering their theological questions instead of their friend’s pain. They speak with the mantle of authority to tell him what to do in his space of loss. But even they did something that might be helpful for our understanding. When the story starts, they come to visit their friend whom they have heard terrible things have happened to. And they sit. They sit in silence for seven days, aware of his pain. The book stands still for that week.

Yes, I think that we need to be talking about allies as participating in movements of liberation. Listening is active. Seeking out information and awareness is active. Sitting with (even, maybe especially in silence) is an act of solidarity. Full participation doesn’t mean the same thing, because we’re each coming to the table with different concerns an needs. Receptive action is not an oxymoron.

My anti-racist work doesn’t look like my queer advocacy. I’m at different places with each. That doesn’t trouble me. Yes, my status is in conflict with itself. I am given privilege for some things, cast down for others. But the confusion lies with the system of power, not with me. I am learning who I want to be. I am with the people who are calling me by names that find that which is truth in me. It is the hegemony that doesn’t know what to say, if I am a Good Old Boy or a fag. Let them worry.

In the meantime…there’s plenty to do.